Canal trash

Trash is an increasing problem in southwest Idaho irrigation canals and ditches.

Irrigation districts and canal companies in growing southwest Idaho say they’re seeing more yard waste, trash and other debris dumped into canals, laterals and ditches as well as onto their legally protected rights of way.

“With the population growth, it’s more than ever,” Treasure Valley Water Users Association Executive Director Roger Batt said. “People think these places are waste-disposal sites.”

The valley’s irrigation delivery entities operate about 1,500 miles of canals, laterals and ditches.

Batt said there are more homes near irrigation infrastructure and more residents who are living near it for the first time.

The Community Planning Association of Southwestern Idaho reported that the April 2021 population was up by 3.2% in Ada County and 3.6% in Canyon County from a year earlier.

“This year, we have already seen an alarming increase in household waste being dumped into our irrigation facilities and along our easements,” Mark Zirschky, superintendent of Caldwell-based Pioneer Irrigation District, said in a release from the association.

Cleanup-related spending “should not be the burden of our water users,” and the dumped material can harm the system, he said.

For example, a load of tree limbs and stumps dumped at night plugged Pioneer’s main spillway on the sizable Phyllis Canal this year. Water rose, and “absent our automation system, we could have lost the canal (function) in the early morning hours,” Zirschky said.

Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District Water Superintendent Greg Curtis said the dumping problem grows in step with the population increase.

“If that trash and yard waste stay in the canal, we will have to fight it all the way through the system as pipes and weed racks get clogged,” he said.

Batt said debris dumping has been a problem for years. One Idaho statute prohibits it because it can interfere with delivery of irrigation water, and another allows criminal proceedings against violators.

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